Telstra promises GPL fix, if necessary


The nation’s largest telco Telstra has promised to fix any open source licensing issues associated with its new batch of branded products, in response to developer claims that its T-Hub and T-Box products weren’t compliant with the terms of the popular GNU General Public License.

Over the weekend, local developer Angus Gratton accused the telco of not adhering to the terms of the GPL in its use of Linux in the products — stating Telstra should distribute the source code to the software used and make its customers aware that the products used open source software.

In response, the company said in a statement that it took intellectual property rights “very seriously”, and believed it was important to ensure any of its products respected other parties’ rights. The T-Box media centre is produced for the telco by European company Netgem, while its T-Hub integrated multimedia telephone system is built by French company Sagem.

“We’re currently talking with our T-Hub vendor to work out whether software used in the product is subject to [the] General Public License (GPL),” said the company. “Should we find a lack of compliance, we promise to work with our supplier to correct it.”

In addition, the telco said the required information regarding the T-Box was already available.

“T-Box owners can find licensing information about the open source software incorporated into their device by visiting the settings menu,” Telstra said. “The source code for the open source material is available from our vendor’s website and we believe all GPL code is identified and is available to customers.”

The GNU GPL is a popular open source licence used by a number of projects — including, for example, large sections of the kernel of the Linux operating system and associated libraries. The licence was designed to ensure that the intellectual property assets inherent in open source projects would remain in the public domain and available for use.

Organisations such as — which task themselves with monitoring commercial use of GPL-licensed software — interpret the licence as requiring that companies who distribute products based on GPL-licenced software must make source code to the software available to customers — for example, include a zip file of relevant files on a documentation CD. In addition, a copy of the GPL licence should be included with licence documentation.

Alleged violations of the terms of the licence have led to a number of high-profile court cases — such as, for example, a case against security vendor Fortinet in Germany in 2005, and a similar case against networking vendor D-Link in 2006, also in Germany.

Image credit: Free Software Foundation, GNU GPL


  1. Just try typing GNU/Linux or GNU+Linux, it really isn’t that difficult and it’s accurate.
    Discussing ‘Linux’ as an operating system is inaccurate (Linux is just the kernel, the rest of the system is GNU).
    Also using GNU+Linux is important because freedom is important (as in liberty rather than just gratis)

    • Sorry, I don’t subscribe to Richard Stallman’s marketing push. ‘Linux’ it is, and ‘Linux’ it will remain. Saying ‘GNU/Linux’ in public just makes people ask what you are talking about.

      • People are only confused by GNU/Linux because of people like yourself being lazy and inaccurate in your communications about FLOSS.
        It is not a marketing push and not typing 4 characters is just lazy.
        I don’t subscribe to glib inaccuracy but I’m not sorry about that.

        • I’m not lazy or inaccurate — I’m aware of the debate, and there was a time when I did term it “GNU/Linux”. However, that battle has been lost, and the term ‘Linux’ now has a standard, commonly used definition. I’m not going to stray from that for the sake of a small amount of special interest groups.

          • The way we talk about something absolutely informs how we (and in turn other people) think about the issues around it.

            You might not think this is important with something like GNU/Linux, but I’d suggest it’s pretty important with other debates that are pretty relevant to IT in Australia (and around the world). The two that immediately spring to mind are the use of the word “pirate” to describe media sharing and the conflation of illegal and refused classification in conjunction with how we talk about the proposed Labor government.

            I suppose it’s pretty important for us to pick the right (or at least consistent) terms if we’re looking to have some decent discussion about anything around this.

            Not that I entirely disagree with your point, but it’s an interesting aside still.

    • Ignoring the GNU/Linux marketing argument, I dont see any reason to assume that these Telstra products would even contain GNU coreutils. Why would a tablet thing need mv, cp, chown, etc?

      • Well, I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy Tab here, and it looks like most basic Unix commands are available if you install a terminal emulator to communicate with the base O/S — so I assume they would be available on most Android tablets.

        • I don’t want to get drawn into this overly pedantic argument, but for the sake of information:

          – The Telstra devices in question use busybox to provide the coreutils functionality that they need (cp/mv/what-have-you) with a smaller footprint. They still link to the GNU C library though.

          – Android is all-Apache-license above the kernel layer. Google wrote their own busybox-equivalent shell program that they could Apache license, to make things simpler for manufacturers who were scared of the GPL. AFAIK some manufacturers still choose to ship with busybox and take on GPL, anyhow, because they want one or another piece of functionality (it’s amazing how much busybox can do.)


          – Angus

      • They might use cp when they do an firmware upgrade.

        They are common tools used by scripts in the background.

      • For such embedded devices in many cases Busybox is used instead of GNU tools, so even less the case to prefix with “GNU/”

  2. The T-Hub is made by Sagem and the T-Box by Netgem, not the other way around as the story currently has.

  3. Its not GNU/Linux. Either its Linux, or its GNU/X11/GNOME/KDE ………./Linux. Everytime you say GNU/LInux you are following stallmans selfish approach of stealing credit from other people. So before correcting others on the use of the term linux, fix your own stupid term.

  4. Sorry telstra. You distribute the product, you make the source and licence available for download. Saying it’s available elsewhere is not enough. You are currently in breach of copyright. Fix it.

  5. New source release on NetGems site, i think (hope) that Telstra is no longer violating the GPL.

    Took longer than i expected.

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